A BuzzFeed piece defended cleaning up the image of Planned Parenthood and protecting its federal funding so thoroughly the new president of Planned Parenthood herself had to walk back the story to some degree.
“The organization is still committed to providing abortions and reproductive care, but [Leana] Wen, the first female physician to run Planned Parenthood, is embarking on a cross-country listening tour to learn how best to add or expand nonabortion services,” wrote Ema O’Connor of BuzzFeed in “Planned Parenthood’s New President Wants To Focus On Nonabortion Health Care.”
The story opens with O’Connor describing how Wen, 35, who took over for Cecile Richards on Nov. 12, still has not had time to hang anything on her office walls because she has “hit the ground running with this new campaign that sent the clear message: Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a health care organization, not a political symbol.”
The new slogan – “This Is Health Care” – is “a very different tone,” O’Connor wrote, from those under Richards, such as #Fight4BirthControl” or “I Stand With PP.”
The new president has begun a 5-month, 20-city “listening tour,” O’Connor wrote, “to learn how best to add or expand nonabortion services that are not normally associated with Planned Parenthood, like treatment for opioid addiction, diabetes management and mental health counseling.”
The organization plans to showcase Wen’s background as Baltimore health commissioner and a practicing physician who has vowed to continue to work at an urgent care clinic in the city and could actually perform blood tests and screenings for Planned Parenthood herself – “a service that is far outside of her job description as president, but a great photo opportunity,” O’Connor wrote.
O’Connor admitted Wen’s appointment was not “wholly apolitical” – she once sued the Trump administration for cutting funds to a teen pregnancy prevention program, fought it over federal family planning funding and continues to speak out against its immigration policy.
But Wen’s appointment marks “a pointed and purposeful departure from Richards and one that sends a clear message,” O’Connor wrote.
The piece quoted a March for Life official saying “It’s brilliant hiring her. I was preparing for another elected shill kind of person.” O’Connor lamented two paragraphs later that “some Democrats are concerned” about “Wen’s shift to focusing on health care over politics is a sign Planned Parenthood is backing away from the fight.”
It was left to Wen to correct the record.
“I am always happy to do interviews, but these headlines completely misconstrue my vision for Planned Parenthood,” she tweeted with a link to the BuzzFeed piece.
“First, our core mission is providing, protecting and expanding access to abortion and reproductive health care,” she wrote in a later tweet. “We will never back down from that fight – it’s a fundamental human right and women’s lives are at stake.”
A third tweet read: “Our advocacy work is crucial to delivering on our mission. The 2018 midterms, including the record number of women and the historic pro-reproductive health majority elected to House, prove that Planned Parenthood continues to be a powerful political force across the country.”
BuzzFeed ran a quote in its story but set it up as meaning something different from what Wen intended.
After the paragraph where O’Connor talked about the listening tour and how it was designed to look for other nonabortion services to offer, it quoted Wen.
“The last thing I would want is people to get the impression that we are backing off of our core services. What we will always be here to do is provide abortion access as part of the full spectrum of reproductive health care. It’s who we are. But we also recognize that for so many of our patients we are their only source of health care.”
Planned Parenthood performed more than 321,000 abortions last year, according to its annual report.
Photo by Elvert Barnes